A vision by a Guthrie man and his family will soon turn to fruition over in Lincoln County. Matthew Gellenbeck of Guthrie and a host of staff will soon open Pearl of Grace Ranch for Girls in Tryon.
“Our perception of teen girls is that they are loved and important. There is a purpose for them being in the world. Through the staff and the environment, they will be in, they can eventually go back and see life with a different perspective,” said Gellenbeck.
Gellenbeck started working with the youth doing ministry work with boys in the Oklahoma City area many years ago. As time wore on he realized a need to help girls and with some help from friends, the Pearl of Grace Ranch project was started.
First, they needed a building. After searching the area, Tryon just down the road off Highway 105 had an old elementary school that the town had bought and then changed its mind on renovating it for local use. Gellenbeck’s group won the building at the auction and now had a building. That was two years ago. Toney and Jeanie Samons from Springfield, Missouri were then asked to get involved in the project and moved to Tryon to help Gellenbeck with his vision. The Samons’ have been on site ever since and been involved in every aspect of the building including coordinating thousands of hours of volunteers from across Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas in the construction of the project.
Toney Samons was involved in the drawing of the plans, demolition of the school building and stripped it down to the walls and met with countless officials for permits and requirements of running a residence in Tryon. The good news is the building is across the street from the local fire department and police department. The group met with the Department of Human Services for ideas on the building although the ranch is not being used to accept DHS referrals. The non-profit building will get most of its referrals from the Lincoln County judges.
The ranch is designed to handle girls ages 13-18. The program is an 18-month program where the girls will live and go to school on site. There are four apartments currently under construction with the ability to hold eight girls each with two monitors in each apartment. There was an old ag building also on campus and they have turned that into a cafeteria and meeting hall for the school. Gellenbeck has hired Theresa Beachy out of Maryland to be the ranch director. Once the construction on the building is complete, the goal is to start accepting residents by mid-October. “God has opened a lot of doors. We have had lots of support from local church groups. Ultimately, we hope we offer a safe place for the girls to be in. The people in Tryon have been very excited and helpful,” said Gellenbeck.
The ranch will eventually include horses, but the barn still needs to be built. The school curriculum will be individualized instruction based on test scores. The girls will go to school every morning and then after lunch will have life skills classes. The facility is not secured from a standpoint that the girls are confined to the building and the vetting process for the girls to be accepted is targeted towards girls who want help and will not be a runaway issue.
The ranch held a ribbon cutting on Sept. 29. For more information check out the website at www.pearlofgraceranch.org. Lenée Sorrell is the director of development and can be reached at 417-766-0917 or firstname.lastname@example.org.